In a span of 22 seconds, Columbia High scored two late touchdowns to pull away to a 36-20 non-league victory last Friday at Forks.
The Bruins (3-0) got a 12-yard touchdown pass from senior Bryan Charters to senior Teddy Davis with 3:33 left in the game, and a 33-yard TD run by Charters at the 3:11 mark to clinch the win.
"The game wasn't close to being over after we went up 28-20 with 3:33 left," Bruins Coach Larry McCutcheon said. "But when we got that last score 22 seconds later, then we were able to relax a little bit."
Late in the first quarter, things got more than a little tense for Columbia, which saw Forks convert two fumbles into two touchdowns in a 2-1/2-minute stretch and take a 14-0 lead.
But the Bruins found their rhythm on offense and pulled even before halftime, scoring the equalizing points with a pair of time-consuming drives -- capped by short rushing TDs by Charters and junior Kevin Leis -- and Charters' run for the two-point conversion.
After battling from behind the entire first half, momentum and the lead swung in Columbia's direction midway through the third quarter.
Senior Keith McMillen gave CHS the lead with a 26-yard run with 5:01 to go in the third period, and Charters ran in the conversion to put the Bruins ahead 22-14.
But Forks (0-3), which outgained CHS on the ground (238-236), trimmed the lead to 22-20 when Chris Hinchin barreled in for his second TD, from 4 yards out, with 6:11 remaining.
Columbia's defense preserved its advantage, however, by stopping Forks' running attempt at a two-point conversion.
Then, on the ensuing kickoff, the Spartans tried an onside kick. But the tactic backfired as the ball rolled dead after traveling eight of the necessary 10 yards.
The Bruins took advantage of the good field position at their own 42-yard line and moved 58 yards in seven plays for a 28-20 lead on Davis' first TD catch of the year.
Following the kickoff, Forks fumbled on the first play -- and its one chance to even the score -- and CHS junior Cory Lampe recovered at the Spartans' 33-yard line.
On first down, Charters called his own number and sprinted around the corner and 33 yards for his second rushing touchdown of the game, and seventh of the season.
He topped it off by running for his third two-point conversion, which gave CHS its margin of victory.
"We beat [Forks] by 16, but the game was a lot closer than the score indicates," McCutcheon noted. "And considering the long trip, that our quarterback was sick at home, and all the penalties that were called, it could've been closer than it was."
Columbia made the 312-mile trip to Forks on Friday, but without Eric Crause, CHS' junior signal-caller, who was sidelined by an infection.
In his place, McCutcheon opened with freshman Jon Bryan. But Bryan's first varsity start ended after two series, the first because of a fumble, the second because of penalties.
"If we hadn't fallen behind by two touchdowns, I probably would've stayed with Jon," his coach said. "But since we did, I felt we needed an experienced hand at the controls. By putting Bryan (Charters) in there, it gave the team's confidence a lift."
But Charters' first series under center since last November -- and CHS' third of the game -- didn't last long as he and senior center Hank Ohlson failed to connect on a center-quarterback exchange.
Forks jumped on the loose ball at the CHS 19 and scored three plays later on Hinchin's 11-yard run with 59 seconds left in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Charters settled down and engineered scoring drives of 51 and 60 yards that forged a 14-14 deadlock at the half.
Charters finished the game with 91 yards rushing on 11 carries, and completed 8 of 15 passes for 102 yards.
McMillen rushed eight times for 73 yards and picked up 64 more on three receptions, including a 40-yarder that set up Charters' TD toss to Davis.
Forks gained just 22 yards through the air, on 3-of-15 passing. McMillen accounted for one of those 12 incompletions by intercepting his second pass of the season.